John Adams to Abigail Adams
Feb. 27. 1793 Philadelphia
My dearest Friend
I am so anxious for your health, Since you inform’d me of the return of your Intermittent, that I shall take the Stage on Monday for N. York, but whether I shall go by the Packet to Providence, or continue in the Stage to Boston, I know not. This will depend upon the Wind and other Circumstances to be learn’d at N. York.
C. Smith is here in good health. He is returned from France and England, almost a Revolutionist, if not quite. The Fermentation in Europe distresses me, least it should take a turn which may involve Us in many difficulties. Our Neutrality will be a very delicate Thing to maintain: and I am not without Apprehensions that Congress or at least the Senate may be called together in the summer if not earlier. however We must be prepared as well as We can for Events.
The Attorney General, in opening the Information to the Jury, at the Tryal of Mr Paine, was pleased to quote large Passages from Publicola, with Some handsome Compliments: so that Publicola is become a Law Authority. Mr Erskine in his Answer cryed, Well, let others do like Publicola answer the Book not prosecute the author.1
I am weary of reading Newspapers. The Times are so full of Events, the whole Drama of the World is such a Tragedy that I am weary of the Spectacle. Oh my Sweet little farm, what would I not give to enjoy thee without Interruption? But I see no end to my Servitude, however the nations of Europe and even of Africa may recover their Liberty.
Hamilton has been Sufficiently fatigued with demands for Statements and Information. I hope his health will hold out, and his Character be Supported: but We have broad hints of what may be expected by, Executive Officers, who depend upon an Elective head, from Elective Legislatures. Ambitious Members of a Legislature will too easily run down the Popularity of Ministers of State, or I am egregiously mistaken. But Ca ira.
France will Soon Shew Us Examples enough of Ministers falling before ambitious Legislatures, if she has not exhibited enough already. Calonne Neckar, Montmorin and 20 others, where are they?2
I am, my dear, most tenderly your
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Portia”; endorsed: “Febry 27th 1793.”
1. Thomas Paine’s first part of the Rights of Man, published in London in March 1791 and reprinted in the United States in May, elicited JQA’s response as Publicola the following month. Paine’s publication in 1792 of the second part of Rights of Man, which was more widely distributed than the first part and considered a threat to the British monarchy, resulted in Paine’s being charged with seditious libel. He appeared in court in June, but the trial was postponed until December. Attorney general Archibald Macdonald led the successful prosecution. Thomas Erskine (1750–1823), an opposition leader and attorney general to the Prince of Wales, represented Paine, who did not attend (DNB description begins Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, New York and London, 1885–1901; repr. Oxford, 1959–1960; 21 vols. plus supplements. description ends ).
TBA reported similar news to JQA in a letter of 26 Feb. 1793, in which TBA noted that he had obtained information about the trial from a pamphlet entitled The Whole Proceedings on the Trial of an Information Exhibited Ex Officio by the King’s Attorney-General against Thomas Paine, London, 1793, which he quoted at length to JQA (Adams Papers). See also TBA to AA, 27 May , note 5, above.
2. Charles Alexandre de Calonne, the former French controller general of finances, had successfully emigrated to England, and Jacques Necker, the former director general of finances, had retired to his home on Lake Geneva. Armand Marc, Comte de Montmorin de Saint-Herem, one of King Louis XVI’s advisors and a former ambassador to Spain, had been arrested and killed by a mob in Aug. 1792 (Bosher, French Rev. description begins J. F. Bosher, The French Revolution, New York, 1988. description ends , p. xxviii, l, li).